Jay Leno: This is the quickest way to become a millionaire

Why Jay Leno never touched his 'Tonight Show' money
Why Jay Leno never touched his 'Tonight Show' money

Jay Leno has done well for himself.

After doing stand-up comedy for years, he spent more than two decades hosting NBC's "The Tonight Show," which reportedly earned him as much as $30 million a year. Today, he hosts CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," a series that explores Americans' obsession with cars.

While the comedian didn't experience overnight success — "I wasn't a millionaire when I started," he tells CNBC Make It — he discovered the key to getting rich early on: Developing multiple streams of income.

From the moment Leno entered the working world, he always had at least two ways to make money: "I had two jobs because I realized that was the quickest way to become a millionaire."

Jay Leno hosted "The Tonight Show" from 1992 to 2014
Kevin Winter | Getty Images

Leno was smart about how he handled both paychecks, too. He banked the bigger one and lived off the smaller one. When he was first starting out, that meant saving the money he made working at a car dealership and spending what he made as a comedian.

"Then I got to the point where the comedy money was, like, five times the other money, so I decided to flip it around and save the comedy money," Leno says. "I would always spend the lesser amount of what the two were."

He continued relying on this strategy even after he started hosting "The Tonight Show" in 1992.

"I pretended as if I didn't even have the Tonight Show job," says Leno. Instead he lived off the money he earned doing comedy show gigs on the side. "You know, when you start making money, you get lazy. I wanted to make sure I always had that hunger, so I never looked at [the Tonight Show money]. It would go directly into a bank."

After 22 years on the job, he accumulated "a nice little nest egg," he says.

Today, Leno still does two to three comedy gigs a week, he tells CNBC Make It, or "210 jobs a year outside of whatever else I'm doing." After all, "if you do something and it works, then keep doing it."

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Video by Zack Guzman

Jay Leno has no debt thanks in large part to abiding by this one rule
Jay Leno has no debt thanks in large part to abiding by this one rule